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Parish Pastoral Council formation - The Structure of a Parish Pastoral Council

Who’s in charge? Very simply, the pastor. Leadership of the parish pastoral council is structured either with the pastor as the chairperson, or the pastor with a lay chairperson.

Who should be members? Membership on the parish pastoral council should reflect the cultural, racial, gender, and age diversity of the parish, and also the type of council, i.e., planning, coordinating, managing councils or combo (above). A good number of members would be no less than ten, and no more than fifteen.

How to select members? There is no right or wrong way. Ultimately the pastor is the one who selects and convenes the members. Potential members can be surfaced in a number of ways, such as parish wide election or nomination, individual ministry group election or nominations, or by use discernment processes such as town hall meetings.

What are the roles on the parish pastoral council?

  • The Pastor presides over the parish community, and thus over the parish pastoral council.
  • The Chairperson, if not the pastor, facilitates the meetings and sets the agenda with the pastor.
  • The Vice-Chairperson serves in absence of the Chairperson and succeeds the Chairperson.
  • The Secretary maintains a written record of the meetings, keeping a current membership roster.

What are the terms for parish pastoral council members? Many parish pastoral councils have found that a term of three years works well, with no member serving for more than two terms. Each year, serving members should rotate off the council and new members should begin to serve.

But circumstances vary from parish to parish; therefore the pastor would be prudent to create procedures or by-laws which best reflect the particular local needs, the leadership style of the pastor, the leadership abilities in the parish, and the cultural and historical traditions of the parish.

Within these by-laws, the following might be included:

  • Meeting procedures
  • Frequency of meetings
  • Whether the meetings be open or closed
  • How to address mission parishes or if the pastor has more than one parish or if the parish has more than one church
  • Rotation of officers and members
  • Style/method of council (planning, coordinating, managing)
  • How prayer will be prominent within the meetings

In the end, an effective parish pastoral council is a collaborative leadership team that supports the leadership of the pastor.

Who does the pastoral council represent?

The parish pastoral council represents the entire parish. To accomplish this, a parish pastoral council must be a representative body, not a body of representatives. The parish pastoral council is not a legislative body.